How to get a COVID-19 test

When you should get a test, what you need to do, and how to report your RAT results. Tests detect all COVID-19 variants.

Who can get a free test

A COVID-19 test is free if it is part of the public health response. This includes if you:

  • have symptoms
  • are a Household Contact
  • are a critical worker and need a test to go to work
  • are part of the healthcare and emergency service workforce
  • require a test to attend court
  • do a job where mandatory testing applies
  • have been told to get one by a health professional.

When you should get a test

If you are unwell

If you have cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms you should get a test as soon as you start to feel unwell. Doing a test and reporting the result in My Covid Record means you can get the help you need as early as possible.

If you are unsure, talk to your local healthcare provider or call Healthline on 0800 358 5453.

Check the list of COVID-19 symptoms

If you are a contact of someone with COVID-19

If you live with a person who has COVID-19 or have spent at least 8 hours with them in the same residence, you need to get a test on their Day 3 and Day 7 of self-isolation. You do not need to get a test if you had COVID-19 in the last 3  months or completed your isolation as a household contact in the last 10 days.

Advice for Household Contacts

If you are a Close Contact, you do not need to get a test unless you develop symptoms.

Advice for Close Contacts

Getting a test for other reasons

People at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 can get a free test from their doctor or community health provider. They will decide which type of test is best for you.

If you want to get a test for another reason — for example, because you are visiting friends or whānau — you can buy RATs at retail outlets.

If you have had COVID-19 before

28 days or fewer since a previous infection

If you get COVID-19 symptoms again and it has been 28 days or fewer since a previous infection (either from when you tested positive or you first had symptoms) and:

  • you are at low risk of serious illness, you do not need to take another test. Stay home and recover, until 24 hours after you no longer have symptoms.
  • you have an underlying health condition or have COVID-19-like symptoms that are getting worse, you should seek advice from a health practitioner or Healthline on 0800 358 5453.

29 days or more since previous infection

If you have COVID-19 symptoms again and it has been 29 days or more since a previous infection you should take a RAT. If it is positive, you must self-isolate and follow the same advice as for your first infection. 

Types of tests

There are 2 types of COVID-19 tests available to the general public in New Zealand.

  • Rapid antigen tests (RATs) are the main testing method being used now for people with COVID-19 symptoms or who are a Household Contact. Results take about 20 minutes. RATs detect all COVID-19 variants.
  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are still being used in some situations. Results take between 2 and 5 days. A health professional can advise you on the right test to take in your situation. PCR tests detect all COVID-19 variants.

COVID-19 test results and their accuracy | (external link)

Where to get a test

You are allowed to leave your home to get a COVID-19 test while you are self-isolating.

Visit a community testing centre

Healthpoint lists testing centres by area. You can also search for a location near you on a map.

Find a COVID-19 testing centre | Healthpoint (external link)

Order RAT home testing kits

Requesting RATs to use at home is an easy step-by-step process. RATs can be requested on behalf of someone else. You will need access to a mobile phone to validate your order.

You will be issued an order number. You can then collect your RAT order from a collection site listed on Healthpoint, or have someone collect it for you.

Get a test from your doctor

Your doctor may offer COVID-19 tests. Call them to find out and follow their advice.

How to use a RAT

Test instructions vary depending on the brand. Many rapid antigen testing kits follow the instructions below, but not all. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

All RAT kits should be kept out of reach of young children and stored safely according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

How to use a RAT

Understanding your RAT results

If it is positive

If you get a positive test result, you must self-isolate immediately and follow the advice for people who have COVID-19.

Your test result does not need to be confirmed with a PCR unless advised.

What steps to take if you have tested positive

If it is negative

If you get a negative test result and do not have symptoms, it is likely you do not have COVID-19.

If you have symptoms, stay at home and carry out another RAT 48 hours later. If your symptoms get worse, contact your local healthcare provider or call Healthline on 0800 358 5453.

It is possible for someone with COVID-19 to get a negative RAT result. This can be because there was not enough virus in the sample, or because the test was not carried out correctly.

If the test fails or is indeterminate

If a result is failed or indeterminate, you must take another RAT. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on how long to wait between tests.

How to report your RAT results

Whether positive or negative, you should report the results of your RAT. Reporting your result will allow you to be provided with any support required while isolating.

You can report your result online through My Covid Record or by calling the helpline.

How to report your RAT result

Getting your PCR test results

After your test, you must self-isolate until you receive a negative result.

You will get your results in a text message from 2328. It will take between 2 and 5 days.

If you test positive, the text message will provide information about self-isolation, support options and a 6-digit access code for the online contact tracing form.

If you have COVID-19

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